With the conclusion of the Coyotes’ preseason schedule, they still need to decide who makes their final roster. All NHL teams must submit their final 23-man rosters by Tuesday, and the Coyotes still have some trimming to do with 27 men on their roster as of today.
The four players who do not make the Coyotes on opening night will be sent down to the Roadrunners or their junior team in the CHL if they are 20 years old or younger.
An Exciting Return
Following the end of the 2015-16 NHL season, the Coyotes purchased their old AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons and relocated them to Tucson for the 2016-17 season as the Tucson Roadrunners. The move gives the Coyotes the local affiliate they have lacked for years and brings professional hockey back to Tucson after a 17-year absence.
The AHL serves as the primary feeder league into the NHL, occupying the same level in hockey as Triple-A does in baseball, thus bringing world class talent to Tucson.
Red versus White
To make final roster cuts, the Coyotes treated the people of Tucson with a mixed roster exhibition game Sunday.
Using players from their current 27-man roster and skaters who have already been assigned to the Roadrunners, the Coyotes split into two teams. The White Team was headlined by captain Shane Doan, the smooth skating Oliver Ekman-Larsson and promising 21-year-old Anthony Duclair.
Red was led by top centerman Martin Hanzal, the impressive Max Domi and 2015 third overall pick Dylan Strome. Two notable absences for the Coyotes were forward Brad Richardson and starting goaltender Mike Smith.
It was a great day for hockey in Tucson. Thanks to all the fans that came out today! pic.twitter.com/GsWwggxCE7
Unsurprisingly the best forwards on the White team were Doan, Arizona’s 39-year-old captain, and Duclair. The best forwards for Red were Domi, Hanzal, and Strome. All of these players put on a great display NHL talent for the fans in Tucson. Lawson Crouse is one of the players on the bubble to make the Coyotes. Despite being only 19 years old, he did not look out of place playing on a line with NHL veterans Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata.
Crouse was one of the most impressive prospects out on the ice, displaying good positioning, taking several great shots and registering an assist for the Red team. If he does not make the coyotes, Crouse will be sent back to his junior team and will most likely join the Roadrunners late in the season, after his junior team gets eliminated from the playoffs.
Also on the Red team was Strome, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft. Strome is coming off of a season which saw him register an incredible 111 points in 56 games in 2015-16 with the Erie Otters of the OHL. The 19-year-old Strome is truly an elite prospect and he showed it, displaying incredible playmaking skills. He was an excellent possession player for the Red team.
Like Crouse, Strome is currently on the bubble, and if he is sent back to juniors, he won’t join Tucson until late in the season. Another impressive forward who may end up on the Roadrunners’ roster was Christian Dvorak, the 20-year-old who played on a line with Doan and scored early in the third period. Unlike Strome and Crouse, Dvorak is no longer junior eligible, which means that if he doesn’t make the Coyotes, he will be sent to Tucson and and be on the Roadrunners roster on opening night, providing them with a great offensive player.
Adin. Hill. pic.twitter.com/qUCpoKUAEc
The best player on the ice for both teams was white’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 25-year-old Swede is an elite offensive defenseman in the NHL. Every time he stepped on the ice, he led rushes, started breakouts and dominated possession. The only defensive prospect that stood out was the Red team’s Jakob Chychrun. He played an excellent two-way game, generating scoring chances from the back end and breaking up many of White’s rushes. Unfortunately, he is only 18, making him junior eligible. Despite this, Chychrun is an excellent prospect, and I guarantee that we will see him in Tucson within the next few seasons.
Going into Sunday afternoon, the Coyotes had already made their choices for their two goaltenders on the 23-man roster in Mike Smith and Louis Domingue. This gave Roadrunner fans an excellent preview of who will be in net for the Roadrunners this season.
Domingue, a lock for the Coyotes’ roster, was unimpressive allowing Red to score three goals in the first and none in the second. White subbed Domingue out roughly halfway through the second period for 22-year-old Czech netminder, Marek Langhamer. He was solid for the White team throughout his 1 1/2 periods of play. Langhamer made the save of the game when he stretched across the net and stopped the Red cold on a two-on-zero one timer.
His rebound control was great throughout the game, and he had excellent positioning in the net. This should make Langhamer an attractive choice for the Roadrunners in net this season. Playing most of the game in net for the Red team was Adin Hill. With White dominating possession and time on attack for almost the entire second and third periods, Hill kept his team in the game.
He made many great saves, and kept White from converting on many scoring chances in the third. However, a weak point in his game was poor rebound control, one instance of this led to White’s game-winning goal. He also seemed to struggle when the crease got crowded. Despite this, Hill is only 20 and played a decent game for the Red team making him valuable addition to the Roadrunner’s goaltending depth chart.
Max Domi – Radim Vrbata = 1-0 lead for Team Red! pic.twitter.com/pS64RoUxfL
The Coyotes have many great prospects in their system, which will provide Tucson with great hockey for many seasons to come. The Red vs. White exhibition game was an exciting return for professional hockey in Tucson. It was a high scoring game White defeating Red 7-5, it will help finalize both the Coyotes and Roadrunners’ rosters and will begin an exciting new season of professional hockey in North America.
Box Score[table “” not found /]